How Goodwill Began
In 1919, Reverend John S. German and a group of prominent civic leaders first incorporated the Baltimore Goodwill Industries and opened the first factory in the Fellowship Hall of Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church. Two indigent employees were hired to stencil and fold burlap bags for the collection of reclaimable household goods, which could then be sold. Proceeds from these collections would pay the workers, and thereby make the operation self-sustainable. Burlap bags and the jobs they created would come to symbolize the origins of the new organization, the slogan of which was “Not a charity, but a chance.”
Goodwill’s collection efforts grew dramatically over the course of thirty years. Household collection bags were supplemented by donation drives led by the Boy and Girl Scouts, and Goodwill boxes were placed throughout the metropolitan area to keep up with the growing demand for collection services. Later, Goodwill reached out to local communities with mobile donation centers staffed by Goodwill employees. These donation centers, and the retail stores they supplied, soon became synonymous with the name “Goodwill.”
In 1948, Goodwill’s commitment to helping others took a giant step forward with a vocational training program, established jointly by both state and federal agencies. By 1955, the program was certified as a non-public vocational training facility (among Maryland’s first), and nearly 200 disabled individuals had been prepared to join the ranks of independent citizens. Around the same time, Goodwill accepted the first of many contracts to provide industrial services to local businesses. Such contracts fulfilled dual needs, providing companies with top quality workers, and providing gainful employment to individuals with severe disabilities. With the establishment of a vocational training facility and the creation of formal business relationships with local companies, Goodwill’s commitment to the disadvantaged of Baltimore continued to move the company forward.
While Goodwill’s initial focus was helping those with disabilities find gainful employment, that mission has expanded over the years. Goodwill’s primary objective is to help individuals with barriers to employment become self-sufficient through training and employment services.